Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

Webinar // Irankarapte: An Introduction to Ainu Culture in Japan

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Irankarapte: An Introduction to Ainu Culture in Japan,” webinar delivered at the Japan America Society of Minnesota (September 3, 2020).

ABSTRACT

“Irankarapte” is an Ainu greeting. While often translated as “hello,” it means “allow me to touch your heart.” The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan with their own language, religion, and cultural identity. Together with Dr. Christina Spiker, explore the development of Ainu culture and history through art, language, and material artifacts. This webinar will examine both historical and contemporary aspects of Ainu culture, including the surprising ways that Ainu and American history intersect in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will also explore the recent 2020 opening of the new national museum dedicated to the Ainu in Shiraoi, Hokkaido, and Ainu representation in popular media.

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Presentation // Golden Kamuy and the Discourse of Ethnic Harmony: Defining a Multi-Ethnic Japan in Anime and Manga

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Golden Kamuy and the Discourse of Ethnic Harmony: Defining a Multi-Ethnic Japan in Anime and Manga,” paper planned to be delivered at the 50th Annual Popular Culture Association Conference, Philadelphia (April 15-18, 2020). [CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19]

ABSTRACT

The question of Japan’s status as a multi-ethnic nation has been intensively debated by scholars such as Tessa Morris-Suzuki since the 1990s. The development of a new national museum in Hokkaido dedicated to the indigenous Ainu minority called The Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony (民族共生象徴空間, or Upopoy in the Ainu language) has renewed many of these debates on the eve of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. While many scholars, such as Morris-Suzuki, have discussed the concerns with this new contemporary site and the line between celebration and exploitation of indigenous culture, these perspectives have not adequately addressed the role of popular visual culture in spreading an ideology of ethnic harmony in relation to Japan’s indigenous minorities. My paper addresses this issue in a case study of the popular visual cultural representation of the Ainu in the historical manga and anime Golden Kamuy (manga 2014-; anime 2018-) by Noda Satoru. I argue that the way that this show introduces Ainu culture to a non-Ainu majority is in line with many of the issues we see playing out in the political sphere regarding the tension between Ainu recognition by the Japanese government and the government’s unwillingness to take responsibility for past colonial aggressions. In conclusion, by examining Golden Kamuy we can begin to acknowledge the role of visual culture in informing a widespread understanding of indigeneity as we approach the Tokyo Olympics and the torch relay race that will go through this new ethnic museum and park in Hokkaido, Japan.

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Presentation // Optical Consistency in Ainu Photography: Tracing Networks of Transnational Reproduction

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Optical Consistency in Ainu Photography: Tracing Networks of Transnational Reproduction,” paper planned to be delivered on the “Imaginaries in Motion: Early Transnational Photography in and beyond Asia” panel at the Association of Asian Studies, Boston (March 19-22, 2020) [CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19]

ABSTRACT

As Meiji Japan transformed the island of Hokkaido in service of modernization, the indigenous Ainu contended with the invasive colonization of their land and sudden, intense interest in their culture from both Japanese and international travelers. This paper examines this nineteenth-century fascination as captured in early Ainu photography. I investigate the links between original tourist and ethnographic albumen prints, their reproduction as souvenirs and postcards, and their eventual translation into the medium of woodcut engraving. Rather than focusing on improvements in photographic technology, this paper draws upon a framework outlined by Bruno Latour to examine the mobilization of photographs to create a conceptual and optical consistency through an integration of both word and image. I argue that the understanding of the Ainu in both the Western and Japanese imagination often had little to do with capturing the reality of their lives, although this was often the claim. Instead, popular understanding depended on the visual calcification of the Ainu image into a cohesive notion of indigenous identity constructed solely from the outside. The resulting stereotypes were flat and one-dimensional. They found representation in a wide variety of media including Japanese tourist postcards, American newspapers, and photographs from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the 1911 Japan-British Exhibition based on earlier visual models. By tracing the afterlives of several key images, I discuss how optical consistency was achieved over time and how it affected the Ainu community who found themselves at the center.

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Presentation // The “Nakoruru Problem”: The Malleable Ainu Image in Samurai Shodown, 1993-2019 (Mechademia)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The ‘Nakoruru Problem’: The Malleable Ainu Image in Samurai Shodown, 1993-2019,” paper delivered on the “Queered Through the Foreign, Fictional, and Fetishized Body” panel at the Mechademia Conference for Asian Popular Culture, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (September 27-29, 2019)

ABSTRACT

Very little scholarly attention has been given to the visual representations of Native peoples in popular culture, even though media circulation has a role in forging most stereotypes of indigeneity. This void of scholarship is exacerbated in Japan, where the indigenous Ainu were only recognized as an indigenous group in 2008 and legally recognized in 2019. Even before their recent acknowledgment by the Japanese government, images of the Ainu steadily trickled into Japanese popular culture. Before the recent success of manga/anime Golden Kamuy (2014–present), two female heroines from the arcade fighting game Samurai Shodown—Nakoruru and her sister Rimururu—formed a dominant expression of Ainu identity in visual culture beginning in the mid-1990s. This paper examines their complex representation from three distinct angles: (1) the “official” image of these sisters as found in the game franchise, (2) the fetishized image of the women as coopted in fan-produced dōjinshi comics, which plays upon indigenous stereotypes of closeness to nature to further zoophilic rape fantasies, and (3) the adoption of the Ainu women as a local mascot to support Japanese environmental policies related to deforestation and clean water. In exploring the flexibility of the Ainu image as embodied in these two characters, this paper examines the ambivalence of desire and derision that exists between fan and official cultural productions, and the Ainu community response to what Ainu researcher Chupuchitsekor calls the “Nakoruru Problem” (Nakoruru mondai).

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Public Lecture // Indigenous Modernity in Hokkaido, Japan: the Complexities of Ainu Representation in Photography and Illustration (Macalester College)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Indigenous Modernity in Hokkaido, Japan: the Complexities of Ainu Representation in Photography and Illustration,” public lecture delivered at Macalester College. Co-sponsored by Art and Art History, Asian Studies, and the Office of Academic Programs (September 19, 2019).

ABSTRACT

The Japanese island of Hokkaido experienced a boom of travel at the turn of the twentieth century as explorers sought out the indigenous Ainu—a people who were often idealized as a singular white race stranded in the North Pacific. These travelers reproduced countless representations of the Ainu; images that would come to define their culture in the Euro-American imaginary. This presentation explores notions of indigenous modernity through photography and illustration from 1870 until roughly 1930. In what ways did the visual field preclude the existence of modern indigenous subjectivity in Hokkaido? How did photography play a role in the construction and reinforcement of native Ainu stereotypes in Japan and abroad? This lecture will examine some key examples of Ainu photography by popular studios and discuss engravings and newspaper collages based on these original photographic works. It will also explore how Ainu producers of image and text—such as Takekuma Tokusaburō and Katahira Tomijirō—engaged with these dominant representations. Understanding the gradual development of optical consistency from photographs to the illustrations based on them can better illuminate the calcification of Ainu stereotypes at home and abroad, as well as expand our understanding of photography as a visual medium in Meiji and Taishō Japan.

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Public Lecture // Nostalgia as Remedy: Modernity and Sentimentality in Japanese Woodblock Prints of the Meiji Era (The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery)



CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Nostalgia as Remedy: Modernity and Sentimentality in Japanese Woodblock Prints of the Meiji Era,” public lecture delivered at the Catherine G. Murphy Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition Nostalgic Femininity: Japanese Woodblock Prints from The St. Catherine University Archives & Special Collections (May 13, 2019).

ABSTRACT

Christina M. Spiker, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History and curator of the current exhibition, Nostalgic Femininity, will discuss the broader historical and social contexts that inform the relationship between nostalgia and feminine imagery in the work of Japanese printmaker Yōshū Chikanobu and his peers. Learn about print styles from late nineteenth-century Japan using examples from St. Catherine University’s Archives & Special Collections.

VIDEO

A video of the lecture can be watched on The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery website.

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Presentation // Comparative Itineraries: A Digital Humanities Approach to Understanding Authenticity in the Exploration of Hokkaido

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Comparative Itineraries: A Digital Humanities Approach to Understanding Authenticity in the Exploration of Hokkaido,” paper delivered at the Travel is Life, Travel is Home: Representing Travel and Landscape in Japan Conference, Iowa State University (April 4-6, 2019)

ABSTRACT

If you could ask any late nineteenth-century Euro-American explorer about their travels in Hokkaido, Japan, they would all tell you variations of the same story. After a voyage by a steamship, the traveler arrives in the port of Yokohama and confronts a Japan that is both foreign and familiar. After a few days exploration and orientation, they arrange passage to Hakodate by ship with the hope of traveling into Hokkaido’s frontier to meet the indigenous Ainu. Sometimes, these explorers frame the Ainu as savages beyond redemption; at other times, they describe them as naive indigenes in need of religion and civilization. But regardless of how they visually or verbally illustrate the Ainu throughout the text, you would undoubtedly hear tales about how it was this traveler who ventured farther and deeper into Japan’s interior than anyone who came before. As I read these various travel accounts of travel to Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido in the form of explorer’s reports, memoirs, and travelogues, I started to question the exceptional nature of their claims. Did they travel as far as their hyperbole indicated? And when they finally met the indigenous inhabitants of this island, the Ainu, did they really have to navigate “impenetrable jungles,” as one traveler would have it, to locate the ideal “savage” specimen? My paper investigates the role of Hokkaido in three travel narratives written by authors Isabella Bird, Arnold Henry Savage Landor, and Frederick Starr in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I describe the various approaches that these travelers take to exploring the island and employ a digital humanities method to physically plot out the geographies of their route in CARTO DB and ArcGIS. In addition to making a case for the scholarly utility of this method, I use the example of my SCALAR website Mapping Isabella Bird talk about how such digital projects can serve a pedagogical function in posing questions about travel narratives and claims of authorial authenticity.

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Presentation // The White Native Body in Asia: Woodcut Engraving and the Creation of Ainu Stereotypes

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The White Native Body in Asia: Woodcut Engraving and the Creation of Ainu Stereotypes,” paper delivered on the Coloring Print: Reproducing Race Through Material, Process, and Language panel at the annual College Art Association (CAA) Conference (February 13-16, 2019).

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated travelers as they searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier. Idealized as a singular white race stranded in the North Pacific, writers, artists, and anthropologists not only textually described Ainu manners and customs but also reproduced countless photographs and illustrations, which would come to visually define Ainu culture in the Euro-American imaginary. Since works depicting the Ainu tended to be overly reliant on readily available woodcut engravings based on photographs from the tourist trade, a small body of images came to stand in for the whole of Ainu experience and culture in the eyes of late nineteenth and early twentieth century European and American readers. Eventually, even Ainu producers of image and text would have no choice but to engage with these dominant representations.This paper examines the role of popular printmaking of the Ainu as a complex, multi-media endeavor. I investigate links between original albumen prints, such as those by Baron Raimund von Stillfried (1839 – 1911), their reproduction, and their eventual translation into the medium of woodcut engraving or illustration. Understanding the gradual development of optical consistency from photographs to the printed illustrations based on them can better illuminate the calcification of Ainu stereotypes at home and abroad and the flourishing debate over Ainu whiteness in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

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Presentation // Western Women and the Poetry of Crepe-paper Books (Kanagawa University, Yokohama)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Western Women and the Poetry of Japanese Crepe-Paper Books” (西洋女性とちりめん本の詩について), invited paper delivered at the Japanese Crepe Paper Books and Girl’s Culture Exhibition and Symposium (「ちりめん本と女性の文化」展覧会・シンポジウム), Kanagawa University, Yokohama, Japan (November 24, 2018).

ABSTRACT

Coming Soon

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Presentation // The Shôjo and the Indigenous Body: Representations of Ainu Woman in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993-2008

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The Shôjo and the Indigenous Body: Representations of Ainu Woman in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993-2008,” paper delivered on the “The Shôjo Body as Indigenous, Ubiquitous, Balletic and Beautiful” panel at the 67th Annual Midwest Conference for Asian Affairs (MCAA), Metropolitan State University (October 19-20, 2018).

ABSTRACT

With the 2014 release of Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa), a puzzle-platformer developed by Upper One Games in conjunction with the Alaskan Cook Inlet Tribal Council, academics and gamers alike have begun to examine the potential for video games to explore native culture as a form of both entertainment and interactive storytelling. In Japan, where its indigenous Ainu minority was recognized as recently as 2008, the relationship between the Japanese and Ainu population remains strained. This paper investigates the role of representation in creating an accessible version of indigenous culture repackaged for the Japanese mainstream. Focusing on Ainu sisters Nakoruru and Rimururu who are featured prominently in the fighting game Samurai Spirits (1993–2008), this paper examines battling indigenous shōjo heroines as virtual ambassadors of culture. While these two characters are marked as Ainu through their clothing and relationship with nature, their indigenous identity is often secondary to their portrayal the shōjo, or “young girl” archetype. In conversation with the work of Sharalyn Orbaugh, this paper questions how the archetype of the “busty battlin’ babe” translates when dealing with the bodies of Ainu women. I argue that Ainu-ness is represented as a form of narrative excess that the character can don as a costume and remove just as easily. By analyzing Nakoruru and Rimururu’s official representation in the franchise, in addition to fan interpretations as presented in self-published comics (dōjinshi) and the erasure of their Ainu backstory upon import to the United States, this paper negotiates various representations of indigenous Otherness against the backdrop of Japanese racism and indigenous activism in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Presentation // Vaguely Oriental: Engineering Asian Architecture in Fantasy MMORPGs

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Vaguely Oriental: Engineering Asian Architecture in Fantasy MMORPGs,” paper delivered at the 48th Annual Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) Conference, Indianapolis (March 28-31, 2018).

ABSTRACT

In his work Orientalism (1978), Edward Said describes the “Orient” as “the stage on which the whole East is confined.” He explains that, “The Orient then seems to be, not an unlimited extension beyond the familiar European world, but rather a closed field, a theatrical stage affixed to Europe.” The construction of Said’s metaphorical stage is likely familiar to any art historian looking at Neoclassical or Romantic painting. From Ingres to Delacroix, odalisques with unusually Romanesque noses are surrounded by the props, architecture, and costume of an Orientalist tableau made by and for nineteenth-century Europeans.

The application of Said’s Orientalism to the field of art history was and is a common move, but the application to video games is more uncommon. This paper pursues Said’s original line of thinking in another visual mode by focusing on the way that Orientalism manifests in massively multiplayer online role-playing games within the fantasy genre. When immersing one’s self in these games, the design of the world forms a “stage” for the player. Reading Said literally in this sense, I investigate the construction of these spaces with an experimental approach that combines art historical analysis with the recent study of race representation in game studies. While the latter tends to focus on the physical bodies and attributes of in-game characters and avatars, applying close visual analysis so central to the field of art history allows us to understand the way that ideology operates in the smallest—or in the case of architecture, the largest—of environmental details. The visual settings of MMORPGs challenge us by creating specific locales that are read by the player as “Asian” or “vaguely Oriental” within story narratives that harken back to fantasy worlds based in the Western tradition. I want to envision the stakes as well as the creative possibilities enabled by such design.

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Presentation // Reproducing Alterity: Photography, Illustration, and the Maintenance of Ainu Stereotypes in Meiji and Taisho Japan (AHA)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Reproducing Alterity: Photography, Illustration, and the Maintenance of Ainu Stereotypes in Meiji and Taisho Japan,” paper delivered on the “Optics: Race, Religion, and Technology in East Asian Visual Culture, 1868-1949” panel at the American Historical Association (AHA) Conference, Washington D.C. (January 4-7, 2018)

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated travelers as they searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier. Idealized as a singular non-Asian race stranded in the North Pacific, writers, artists, and anthropologists not only textually described Ainu manners and customs but also reproduced countless photographs and illustrations, which would come to visually define Ainu culture in the Euro-American imaginary. Since works depicting the Ainu tended to be overly reliant on readily available photographs from the tourist trade, a small body of images came to stand in for the whole of Ainu experience and culture in the eyes of late nineteenth and early twentieth century European and American readers. Eventually, even Ainu producers of image and text would have no choice but to engage with these dominant representations.

This paper views the photography of the Ainu as a complex, multi-media endeavor. I adopt a broad definition of photography in an effort to investigate links between original albumen prints, their reproduction, and their eventual translation into the medium of woodcut engraving or illustration. This paper examines some key examples of Ainu photography by popular studios, such as that of Austrian photographer Baron Raimund von Stillfried (1839-1911), and explores engravings based on these original photographic works. In addition to popular producers, this paper will also consider the crucial role that Meiji-era photographs played for Ainu illustrator Katahira Tomijiro (1900-1959), who used them as reference images for his painted works. Ultimately, I argue that the importance of indigenous photography goes far beyond the provenance of the printed image. Understanding the gradual development of optical consistency from photographs to the illustrations based on them can better illuminate the calcification of Ainu stereotypes at home and abroad, as well as expand our understanding of photography as a visual medium.

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Presentation // Chun-Li’s Qipao: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Fashion in Capcom’s Street Fighter II

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Chun-Li’s Qipao: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Fashion in Capcom’s Street Fighter II,” paper delivered at the 47th Annual Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) Conference, San Diego (April 12-15, 2017)

ABSTRACT

Coming Soon

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Presentation // The Texture of Crepe: Western Women and the Connoisseurship of Japanese Crepe Paper Books (chirimen-bon)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The Texture of Crepe: Western Women and the Connoisseurship of Japanese Crepe Paper Books (chirimen-bon),” paper delivered at the second annual Art Historians of the Twin Cities Symposium, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (April 1, 2017)

ABSTRACT

In his book, A Shoemaker’s Story, art historian Anthony W. Lee reflects on the importance of investigating local subjects with an eye open to the large—and often global—issues that they invoke. He writes,

My advisor… once waxed eloquent about digging where one stands, meaning a commitment to local subjects and the belief that they deserved just as much rigorous scrutiny as more glamorous, cosmopolitan ones… This book is all about scratching the soil nearby and seeing what turns up. I continue to learn that such a project is neither limiting nor truly local but instead opens up to a very wide and meaningful world…

This essay is an exercise and experiment of following this same advice. While attempting to “scratch the soil nearby,” I uncovered a small, unassuming Japanese crepe paper book (chirimen-bon) in the Evelyn Goodrow Mitsch collection at St. Catherine University. The 24-leaf volume that Mitsch collected bore a quaint name, The Smiling Book, and was published by woodblock printer Takejiro Hasegawa circa 1896. This essay investigates the relationship between densely illustrated crepe paper books produced for a predominantly foreign female audience, the artistry of Hasegawa’s woodblock-printed illustrations, and the obscured labor of missionary and military wives who served as writers and translators of these image-texts. This article also considers the role of Minnesota native Evelyn Goodrow Mitsch as an artist-traveler and a collector. Her life-long mission of bridging cultures can be viewed alongside a material history of the woodblock printed crepe paper book in order to historicize the sustained female engagement and fascination with Japanese objects—a role often played by male connoisseurs of culture— through the mid-twentieth century.

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Presentation // Mapping the Northern Frontier: Geo-Spatial Visualization and the Exploration of Indigenous Culture in Japan

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Mapping the Northern Frontier: Geo-Spatial Visualization and the Exploration of Indigenous Culture in Japan,” lightning paper delivered at the Global Digital Humanities Symposium, Michigan State University (March 16-17, 2017)

ABSTRACT

Coming Soon

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Presentation // Fighting Stereotypes: Reimagining Gender and Race in Street Fighter II (1991) and Samurai Shodown (1993)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Fighting Stereotypes: Reimagining Gender and Race in Street Fighter II (1991) and Samurai Shodown (1993),” paper delivered at the SGMS/Mechademia Conference on Asian Popular Culture, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (September 23-25, 2016).

ABSTRACT

Street Fighter. Mortal Kombat. Tekken. Dead or Alive. These game titles conjure iconic images of international fighting tourneys where characters test their strength in hand- to-hand combat; an alternate world history where button combinations and joystick movements solve global crises between heroes and villains. This paper examines two 1990s examples of the fighting game genre–Street Fighter II and Samurai Shodown–in an exploration of the multiple ways that the visual storytelling of fighting games challenges, complicates and constructs a parallel understanding of domestic and international relations. In my unique focus on popular female characters such as Street Fighter‘s Chun-Li, an expert martial artist and Chinese Interpol officer, and Samurai Shodown’s Nakoruru, an indigenous Ainu priestess of Nature from the Japanese island of Hokkaido, I demonstrate how these games reimagine issues of ethnic diversity, gender equality, and Cold War politics in 1990s visual culture against the background of Japanese racism and indigenous activism.

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Presentation // Recasting the Indigenous: Virtual Ainu Ambassadors in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993-2008

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Recasting the Indigenous: Virtual Ainu Ambassadors in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993–2008,” paper delivered at the Console-ing Passions: International Conference on Television, Video, New Media, and Feminism, University of Notre Dame (June 16-18, 2016).

ABSTRACT

With the 2014 release of Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa), a puzzle-platformer developed by Upper One Games in conjunction with the Alaskan Cook Inlet Tribal Council, academics and gamers alike examined the potential for video games to explore native culture as both entertainment and interactive storytelling. In Japan, where its indigeous Ainu minority was recognized as recently as 2008, the relationship between the Japanese and Ainu population remains strained. This paper investigates the role of gaming in creating an accessible version of indigenous culture repacked for the Japanese mainstream. Focusing on Ainu sisters Nakoruru and Rimururu, featured prominently in the fighting game Samurai Spirits (1993–2008), this paper examines these battling shōjo heroines as virtual ambassadors of culture. While these two characters are marked as Ainu through their clothing and relationship with nature, their indigenous identity often comes second to their portrayal the shōjo, or “young girl” archetype; what Sharalyn Orbaugh has called the role of “busty battlin’ babe.” Ainu-ness is thus represented as a form of narrative excess that the character can don as a costume and remove just as easily. By analyzing Nakoruru and Rimururu’s official representation in the francise in addition to fan interpretations as presented in self-published comics (dōjinshi), and the erasure of their Ainu backstory upon import to the United States, this paper negotiates various representations of indigenous Otherness against the backdrop of Japanese racism and indigenous activism in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Presentation // Touring the Indigenous Village: Kondō Kōichiro’s Ainu Illustrations, 1917

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Touring the Indigenous Village: Kondō Kōichiro’s Ainu Illustrations, 1917,” paper delivered at the first annual Art Historians of the Twin Cities Symposium, St. Catherine University (April 2, 2016).

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated late nineteenth-century anthropologists, intellectuals, and explorers in the United States, Great Britain, and Japan. Motivated by a burning Wanderlust, these figures searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier of Hokkaido. Japanese and Euro-American explorers alike often compared the unruly geography of Hokkaido to the “hairy” Ainu body, conflating natives with the natural landscape. While photographs and illustrations of the Ainu are common enough in the discourse of Japanese anthropology, this paper examines a series of Ainu drawings created by an unlikely figure: modern ink painter and newspaper caricaturist, Kondō Kōichiro (1884–1962).

Trained in oil painting (yōga), and well versed in Japanese monochromatic ink painting (suibokuga), Kondō would seek employment as an illustrator for the Yomiuri Newspaper in 1915. Two years later, he joined a cadre of Japanese travelers intent on visiting the farthest reaches of Japan’s empire not as an anthropological mission, but as a form of leisure and entertainment. The newspaper published Kondō’s comedic, visual exploits in a morning-edition column that exposed new and unsuspecting audiences to his art and travels. In the case of the Ainu, his playful candor exposes new trends in domestic ethnic tourism, and evidences changing perceptions of the Ainu prior to World War Two. Rather than an indigenous culture untouched by the encroachment of modernization, Kondō depicts the bumbling misadventures of four tourists in the village of Shiraoi. This paper explores these little-known illustrations as one example that illuminates the various connections between art, indigenous tourism, and the cosmopolitan traveler in Taishō-period Japan (1912–1926).

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Presentation // Constructing the Indigenous: Nineteenth-Century Circulation and Transformation of the Ainu

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Constructing the Indigenous: Nineteenth-Century Circulation and Transformation of the Ainu Image in British and American Print Culture,” paper delivered at the Nineteenth Century Workshop (Theme: Circulation), Rutgers University. (October 2, 2014).

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated Anglophone explorers and travelers, as they searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier. Idealized as a non-Asian race stranded in the North Pacific, writers like Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), Isabella Lucy Bird (1831-1904), and Edward Greey (1835-1888) not only described Ainu manners and customs, but reproduced countless illustrations which would come to define the native people in the Euro-American imaginary. Augmenting previous textual analyses of early engagement with the Ainu, this essay is an attempt at a visual history of the Ainu as defined by the transformation, reproduction, and circulation of illustrations in travelogues and descriptions of the world.

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Presentation // An Itinerary of Hokkaido: Photo Postcards, Tourism, and Erasing the Indigenous Body

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “An Itinerary of Hokkaido: Photo Postcards, Tourism, and Erasing the Indigenous Body,” paper delivered at the Eighteenth Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ), Sophia University, Tokyo. (June 21, 2014).

ABSTRACT

Photo postcards are an often-ignored category of photographic reproduction, but a crucial hallmark of the modern travel experience. The everydayness and obviousness of the postcard format makes it a ripe primary material through which we can learn about culture, racial attitudes, and the inner-workings of imperial ideology. In this paper, I interrogate a single early Showa-period Japanese postcard set (ca. 1926-1940) that engages with the customs of the Japanese indigenous minority, the Ainu. Produced in Hokkaido, I argue that this particular set exemplifies a much broader postcard phenomenon that negotiates the industrialized Hokkaido landscape with the loss of indigenous, Ainu spaces. The speed of train travel forever changed the tourist experience in Japan by making it feasible to reach obscure locales with ease. As a testament to this new configuration of the tourist map in Hokkaido, postcards like these stand as visual relics that embrace new tourist geographies while illuminating the specter of the indigenous Ainu village erased in the name of progress. This particular postcard set was produced in order to educate a new sightseeing public about the Ainu linguistic origins of Hokkaido city names. The Ainu are visually relegated to the periphery—both literally and figuratively—as Japanese text is superimposed over native bodies in a crowded collage. Through a creative juxtaposition of image, text, and lithographic design these postcards simultaneously laud the wonders of railway travel to the island interior while inscribing new transportation hubs with nostalgia for a pre-Meiji, indigenous past.

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